Two encrypted emails services – Silent Circle and Lavabit – shut down last week, the latter for reasons said to be refusal to conspire against the American people, with Silent Circle pulling the plug on its own service as a preemptive strike against the same reality. Mega’s CEO Vikram Kumar calls this “privacy seppuku,” and detailed the email service his company is working on.
Back in February, founder Kim Dotcom sent out tweets announcing that Mega was working on a secure email service (among other features), saying that Gmail and similar services are vulnerable to the government demanding access to users’ content due to the companies being located in the US. We’ve seen such a reality play out in recent months as surveillance programs were leaked.
Last week, Lavabit’s owner closed down the email service without warning, posting a statement on the service’s home page stating that he had been involved in a multi-week legal debacle, and as a result had to choose between closing the service or becoming “complicit in crimes” against citizens. Silent Circle then announced a bit later that it had been considering the same move, but was spurred by Lavabit’s statement. The company chose to close down its Mail offering to avoid the same predicament.
It was such actions that Kumar called “privacy seppuku,” saying they were choosing to “honorably and publicly” shut down rather than violate users’ privacy. He then went on to detail the email service Mega is working on, which seems to have been given a motivational boost following these turns of event.
Said Kumar: “The biggest tech hurdle is providing email functionality that people expect, such as searching emails, that are trivial to provide if emails are stored in plain text (or available in plain text) on the server side. If all the server can see is encrypted text, as is the case with true end-to-end encryption, then all the functionality has to be built client side.”
He claimed that Silent Circle and many similar services haven’t done this, and that in both this way and others Mega is “hugely cutting-edge.”